BOSTON — The federal government has agreed to destroy all data obtained from a computer and other electronic devices seized from an outspoken advocate of an Army private accused of sending more than 700,000 classified U.S. documents to Wikileaks, the American Civil Liberties Union announced Thursday.
The settlement comes in a lawsuit in which David House accused authorities of violating his constitutional rights when he was stopped at a Chicago airport while returning home to Massachusetts from abroad. A federal judge more than a year ago refused to dismiss the lawsuit.
The ACLU said the government also agreed to hand over numerous documents related to the use of the seized data and questioning of House, a founding member of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
"The seizure of David House's computer is a chilling example of the government's overbroad ability to conduct a search at the border that intrudes into a person's political beliefs and associations," said John Reinstein, an attorney with the ACLU of Massachusetts. "Those rights were vindicated by the settlement we reached."
The ACLU posted a copy of the agreement on its website. Allison Price, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, which defended the government in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the settlement. The posted copy said that the government does not admit to any wrongdoing and that House may continue to be subject to lawful searches and inspections.
Pfc. Bradley Manning has been charged with indirectly aiding the enemy by causing classified material to be published on WikiLeaks. His 3-year-old espionage case is headed for trial Monday at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. In a February statement, Manning said he leaked the Afghan and Iraq battlefield reports, State Department cables and video of a U.S. Apache helicopter attack that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver because he wanted the public to know how the American military was fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with little regard for human life.